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LA Fire Department reports incorrect response times, budget shortfalls magnified

An LAFD fire truck.
An LAFD fire truck.

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The Los Angeles Fire Department reported last year that its first responders arrived on the scene within five minutes 80% of the time when in fact it hovered around the 60% mark.

In response to an L.A. Times inquiry, fire officials have acknowledged that they’ve been fudging the numbers for years, by passing off six minute response times as five. The five minute mark is important because it’s the standard nationwide guideline set by the National Fire Protection Association, which maintains that the five minute mark should be met 90% of the time. That timeframe is paramount in life-saving situations where oxygen deprivation may occur, causing permanent brain damage between the four and six minute mark.

Since 2009, severe revenue shortfalls have forced budget cuts in municipal services including to the fire department. The city saved approximately $53 million by eliminating fire trucks and ambulances from about a quarter of L.A.’s fire stations. These cuts were based on the old assurances that these changes would not impact response times. But that appears not to be the case.

The Los Angeles Times has detailed stories of L.A residents who waited 45 minutes for help with serious injuries. In some cases poor response times where due to inadequate resources because of the budget cuts, in others a faulty communication system was to blame.

Can the LAFD cope with the cuts, without endangering lives? Have you experienced LAFD response times? What was your impression? If you’re a firefighter, how have these issues affected your ability to do your job?


Robert J. Lopez, Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times.

Kate Linthicum, Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times.

Pat McOsker, President, United Firefighters of Los Angeles City